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Women-owned businesses: Woods alumnae become leaders, inspire others

Blog | 08.05.2020

For 180 years, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) has educated women, preparing them for the real world and filling them with the same drive and compassion that Saint Mother Theodore Guerin possessed. Today, the College still continues to do that with both male and female students.

As Saint Mother Theodore Guerin said, “We cannot do our work if we stay in the nest.” Taking the plunge from the nest is something that two alumnae have done ­­– they have created their own businesses after learning skills at SMWC.

The Woods alums, Rachel Leslie and Jan Lorenzano have rooted themselves into their careers and both own their own businesses.

Rachel Leslie
Rachel Leslie, ’14G

Leslie, ’14G, and her company, RJL Solutions, recently earned the certification of being a certified women-owned Business in the State of Indiana.

RJL Solutions was founded in June 2017 and has been growing since, said Leslie. After establishing its headquarters in Terre Haute, the company also opened an office in Indianapolis. In its three years, the company has developed channels in advocacy, strategic communications, operations and marketing.

The company continues to provide opportunities for community members and local students through internships, campaigns and partnerships. Leslie described the process of establishing RJL Solutions as eye-opening. She said she has many people that assisted make her dream of establishing a strong, growing company come true.

“Three years ago, I was surrounded by so many people who had been mentoring me to help me define how to make my dream larger and making change happen,” Leslie, CEO of RJL Solutions said.

Leslie has worked with students to put them into internships. Because she is an SMWC alumna, she often recruits Pomeroys for her business.

“RJL Solutions helped me grow in both my leadership and editorial skills. Working with such an inspiring woman was amazing, and I’ll forever be grateful to the RJL team for all they did to ensure that I had the best internship experience possible,” said Izzy Reel, an SMWC senior who interned for RJL Solutions doing public relations and grant writing in spring 2020.

The RJL Solutions team is made up of multiple Woods graduates from the on-campus, online, and graduate programs. This team is made of various creative members who are constantly striving to play a part in the Wabash Valley.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of Rachel and Jan and the impact they have in our communities. Each graduate’s story is unique and powerful. The Woods encourages all graduates and students to carve their own paths in their chosen professions with a commitment to service, social responsibility and effect positive change.”

Dottie L. King, Ph.D. 

Leslie, who is an SMWC graduate of the Master of Leadership Development (MLD) program, said The Woods holds a special place in her heart and that she continues to stay connected today.

“From an educational stance, it truly matters where you run your time and that you’re proactive in all you do,” said Leslie. “SMWC gave me the educational foundation to do that. One thing I learned from the faculty and staff in the MLD program is that you need to utilize and enhance your experience through being a better leader. I’m very proud of the work I was able to accomplish through the MLD program.”

Aside from her proud accomplishments at SMWC, Leslie said she respects private institutions. “They’re a great piece of this world. The one-on-one experience is significant and I applaud the work and investment in students that private institutions dedicate,” said Leslie.

Leslie explained that she still stays connected to The Woods through the relationships she’s built in the last six years since she has graduated. One person that Leslie admires is the president of the College, Dottie L. King, Ph.D.

“I truly believe in President King’s vision for the College. During my time serving on the cabinet, there were a lot of difficult decisions being made, but seeing her leadership was a gift. Through the years, she’s been a great mentor and we’ve built a strong friendship,” said Leslie.

Leslie said she is proud of both of the RJL Solutions offices. With 45 clients, 39 brands, and numerous connections, RJL Solutions is continuing to grow and help the Wabash Valley. Leslie described that earning this certification means more to the RJL Solutions team than just having the title of being a women-owned business.

“When it comes down to it, it’s about having the right people in the office as part of the team,” Leslie said, “Our team is so proud of this accomplishment because it really was a team effort. Everyone played a part in this process. When hiring someone on the team for RJL, I always ask the question of ‘what can you do to advance the RJL environment and values?’ Our team is about more than just being all women in the office, we seek personal connection to all our clients and in the work that we do.”

Jan Lorenzano - Board of Trustee Member
Jan Lorenzano ’84

Lorenzano and her company, Bright Ideas, established in 1983, is another example of a women-owned business. The company is determined to provide exemplary customer service while using the latest technology advances. Bright Ideas has helped private companies, educational institutions and nonprofits find the perfect products to promote their brand. SMWC has purchased branded items, like key lanyards and phone stands, from Bright Ideas.

“It is great working with an SMWC alumna for our promotional items,” BJ Riley, director of marketing, said. “We really love working with Jan because she is responsive, customer-friendly and we get quality items at a fair price – plus she really loves The Woods! We love seeing the success and accomplishments of The Woods family.”

Part of Bright Ideas’ mission is to build relationship with its customers. Lorenzano, who is a Woods alum from the class of ’84, said she still uses skills she learned from her time at SMWC. Throughout her life, Lorenzano has gained much experience in the business world. From working at her family-owned business, to working in marketing for NASCAR, to becoming one of the owners of Bright Ideas, she continues to represent SMWC.

When talking about Bright Ideas, she explained that customer satisfaction is one of the core values of the team.

“When you have a successful, women-owned business for 37 years, you learn a lot from those who worked before you. You build on those lessons with every generation that passes through. Through the years, we’ve developed a positive work culture, which has served us well,” said Lorenzano.

Bright Ideas has also been awarded ‘Distributor of the Year’ for the last four years. When asked how the team keeps this business so successful, she said, “It’s all about those who are around you. We’re very team-oriented here, and we know that we all hold the same goals and values of the company.”

Lorenzano made a point to get involved on campus during her time at The Woods. She found that taking risks is what helped her develop strong leadership qualities. While being an owner of her company, she also serves as President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors at SMWC.

When talking about how SMWC has influenced her in becoming such a strong leader, she stated, “You have to want to be successful. Ask the right questions. Choose your friends wisely – people who support you and build you up. My mentors also helped me at The Woods, along with professors. No matter what came along, I was always assured that I could do this.”

Lorenzano’s advice to current students is to get involved. “Join clubs and organizations that will benefit your future. Things you’re interested in,” she said. “And find a mentor-someone you like, respect. And get involved in things that suit your career goals. Life is not a box, so don’t look at your first, second or even your third job as your career for the rest of your life.”

As a private institution, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College encourages all students to always take what they’ve learned out into this world. SMWC is very proud of both of these alumnae and their accomplishment of having such a great part in their communities. Along with these alumnae, SMWC encourages all students to pursue their goals and continue to display the drive and willpower they learn during their time at SMWC. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin stated, “Profit by the experience of the past for the future,” and both of these Woods alums have displayed that in their life to get them where they are today.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of Rachel and Jan and the impact they have in our communities. Each graduate’s story is unique and powerful. The Woods encourages all graduates and students to carve their own paths in their chosen professions with a commitment to service, social responsibility and effect positive change,” said King.

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